Does Wearing a Fluorescent Jacket Make You Safer Bicycling
Article from February 27, 2014 by Andrew Foehrkolb
Does wearing high visibility clothing (fluorescent yellow) make you safer while riding your bicycle on the road?
Data published by the US Department of Transportation indicate that 677 cyclists were killed and over 48,000 were injured in motor vehicle related accidents in 2011. We have all been told that wearing bright or fluorescent clothing makes us safer and more visible to passing motorists, but does it really make us safer? A new study recently published in Accident Analysis and Prevention looked at this very issue and the findings were surprising.
Researchers at the University of Bath, UK used a single male cyclist, riding a daily commuting route of 26 miles over several months, to capture data for the study. Data was obtained using an ultrasonic distance sensor to record the distance at which vehicles passed the cyclist. The variables were 7 different clothing outfits.
COMMUTE: Plain cycling jersey, plain trousers, reflective cycle clips, Bell commuting cycle helmet, cycle gloves.
CASUAL: Rugby shirt, plain trousers tucked into socks, woolen hat or baseball cap, plain gloves, small rucksack.
HIVIZ: Bright yellow reflective cycle commuting jacket, plain trousers, reflective cycle clips, Bell commuting cycle helmet, cycle gloves.
RACER: Colorful, skin-tight, Tour de France cycle jersey with sponsor logos, Lycra cycle shorts or tights, sleek race-fitting cycle helmet, cycle gloves.
NOVICE: Yellow reflective vest with words “Novice Cyclist, Pass Slowly”, plain trousers, reflective cycle clips, Bell commuting cycle helmet, cycle gloves.
POLICE: Yellow reflective vest with words “POLICEwitness.com – Move Over – Camera Cyclist”, plain trousers, reflective cycle clips, Bell commuting cycle helmet, cycle gloves.
POLITE: Yellow reflective vest with blue and white checked banding and the words (Police misspelled intentionally)
Did motorists pass the cyclist with room to spare when he was wearing the fluorescent jacket or standard police jacket?
No…the researchers concluded that 1-2% of all vehicles passed within 20” of the cyclist regardless of what he was wearing and that there is surprisingly little evidence that high-visibility clothing for cyclists and motorcyclists offers any safety benefits in daytime. This further suggests that there is no easy fix for riders’ safety from asking them to wear bright clothing.
Walker, I., Garrard, I. and Jowitt, F. (2014) The influence of a bicycle commuter’s appearance on drivers’ overtaking proximities: An on-road test of bicyclist stereotypes, high- visibility clothing and safety aids in the United Kingdom.
Accident Analysis and Prevention, 64. pp. 69-77. ISSN 0001-4575